Here are some tips if you're traveling to Cuba. 10 Things you can do in and around Havana. First a little Background: Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent becoming a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish Galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World. King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592. (from Wikipedia_)
The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana's harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish-American War. After this war the island was largely controlled by the U.S. until 1959 when Fidel Castro incited the Cuban Revloution and took control of the caribbean island nation.
In 1991 when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union disbanded, Cuba lost it's subsidies from the superpower. Prior to that, when the U.S.S.R was intact, they would give subsidies to Cuba in exchange for Cigars and Sugar. The Soviets built roads and other necessary things that the small island couldn't accomplish on their own. After losing this valuable resource, the Cubans had to do something, so Fidel Castro opened the island to tourism. In fact, tourism was so important to Cuba that Fidel put a heavy penalty on any citizen harming or interfering with a tourist. Despite that fact, several tourists have had troubles and even died over there. When I traveled to Cuba in late 2003, one young man wandered into a neighborhood where he attended a house party and some altercation ensued and he was beat pretty badly and eventually died. It's likely that this was a unique occurrence as travel with the proper precautions seems to be very safe and easy and thousands of tourists visit the island every year.
here's a cool video of someone who took a recent trip to havana.. fun images:
And now here's 10 Fun things you can do in and around Havana Cuba:
1) Check out the City of Old Havana. There are many sites to visit and sights to behold in this amazing place. The richness of the architecture is beyond description. Here's a few hightlights: Plaza de Armas (the oldest square in Havana and the site of the city’s foundation), El Templete (the oldest neo-classical building in Havana), Casa de la Obra Pia (notable for its curvaceous baroque portico,
which was carved in Cadiz in 1686. Today it houses a museum of 18th century furniture and goods) and the Covento de Santa Clara (a pre-baroque nunnery with rammed-earth walls and beautiful cloister) – visitors are as likely to be excited by the commotion of daily streetlife.
2) The Hotel Nacional is Havana’s most famous hotel, and also a national monument, the Nacional opened in 1930 and is famous for having hosted rich and famous guests such as, Winston Churchill
and Al Capone. The hotel bar, La Terraza is a great place for a cocktail and a magnificent views of the Malecón. The Nacional is known for having the most amazing Mojito's in all of Cuba.
3) Ice Cream! Coppelia is the most famous ice cream place in Havana. Located in a park, it's so amazing and fun. Great seating and great ice cream. THis is a must see and must do for all those traveling to Havana. It is located on the part of Calle 23 known as La Rampa in the Vedado district, and the flying-saucer-shaped building and lot occupies the entire city block between Calles 23 and 21, and Calles K and L. Coppelia has been a major city landmark for both locals and visitors since its opening in 1966, but acquired additional fame when it was featured in one of the most widely viewed Cuban films, Strawberry and Chocolate. (source: wikipedia)